One can only become ecstatic when hearing about a new White Whale finding. These findings are of course exceptionally rare. Indeed, we know about most of these few that have been sighted in nature, but they are rare nonetheless.
Despite the rarity, three reported sightings of white sperm whales have been made in the Mediterranean waters this summer, one off Toulon, France, on the 6th of August and two other near Sardinia, Italy in early August. It is not clear whether this is the same animal or more than one.
The whale sighted off Toulon is probably not an albino but rather a leucistic individual. Different from albinos, where the animal completely lacks the pigment melanin, the leucistic mammals have partially reduced production of multiple types of pigments, not only melanin. Therefore, these animals have fair skin or patchy coloration. The following picture shows a white-yellowish pigmented sperm whale, hence the suspicion of a leucistic sperm whale swimming about in the Mediterranian at the moment.
It is incredibly odd, yet beautiful, to see this big, almost highlighted white body cruising right below the ocean surface
Photo credits: Above: ANSA, below: Oliver Brechet/Antonio Cano
Edda Elísabet Magnúsdóttir
Marine Biologist, University of Iceland